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Almost anyone who’s been to a live auction has heard an auctioneer say, “I’ve got it all over the house!” This is typically exclaimed upon opening up the bidding for an item, and the auctioneer suggesting a price, and several hands go in the air.

The phrase, “I’ve got it all over the house” communicates to the bidders that there is much interest in this item being sold; the auctioneer is hoping to communicated that surely if many people are willing to bid $250 for this rare mid-century sterling bracelet, for example, then it must be worth much more than that.

For the most part, this is a fairly harmless technique. Saying that many people are bidding $250 for this bracelet will almost always prompt one or more bidders to bid more, such as $275 or $300, felling that such a bid is safe given the apparent widespread interest.

Yet, what is happening here is contractually confusing at best. Having it, “all over the house” signals that there is a contract for this sterling bracelet with more than one bidder … which there can’t be since there’s only this one item being offered. In other words, one bracelet and more than one buyer?

Let’s look at what could happen in a case of having a bid “all over the house.” What if nobody else bid? With the auctioneer noting that he has a high bid with everyone who has their hand up in the air (all over the house), and no higher bid, what does the auctioneer do then?

If the auction is a reserve auction, he could withdraw the item; however if a without reserve auction, the item could not be withdrawn. Further, if that initial bid was $250 and no other bids were made, the auctioneer would be unilaterally withdrawing the item from all but one bidder, in order to sell the bracelet to one of the bidders. This would constitute a breach of contract with all but that one successful bidder.

While the complications of the “I’ve got it all over the house” are probably rare, we would suggest it is not prudent for auctioneers to utter such words. Instead, maybe, “I have $250 here and would like $275, with lots of interest in this item folks …”

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.